“Sony BMG Music Entertainment, the world’s second largest music company, will this month become the last of the big four majors to drop copy protection software on music downloads, also known as digital rights management (DRM),” Yinka Adegoke reports for Reuters.
Sony BMG “said on Monday it will launch a gift card service on January 15 called Platinum MusicPass that will feature digital albums from its artists in the MP3 format. The format does not use DRM protection,” Adegoke reports.
“Fans will be able to buy the digital album cards in stores and download full-length albums from a MusicPass Web site after they type in an identifying number. The cards will be available at U.S. retail outlets such as Best Buy and Target,” Adegoke reports.
“In February , Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs called on music companies to stop requiring retailers to use DRM for services like his company’s iTunes Music Store. Jobs said dropping DRM would help boost sales,” Adegoke reports.
Full article here.
David Lieberman reports for USA Today, “The No. 2 record company after Universal Music will sell plastic cards, called Platinum MusicPass, for individual albums for a suggested price of $12.99.”
“Best Buy, Target and Fred’s stores will be first to sell them. By Jan. 31, they’ll be in Winn-Dixie, Coconuts, FYE, Spec’s and Wherehouse. Like gift cards, MusicPass cards are activated at the store,” Lieberman reports. “Sony BMG initially will offer cards for 37 albums by performers including Alicia Keys, Avril Lavigne, Bruce Springsteen, Chris Brown, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Jennifer Lopez and Santana.”
“For a suggested $19.99, Sony BMG also will offer cards for Kenny Chesney’s album Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates and Celine Dion’s Taking Chances that let users download a second album by the same artist,” Lieberman reports.
Lieberman reports, “While conventional download services, such as iTunes, (AAPL) make impulse music buying easier than the cards, Sony BMG feels “strongly that there’s a group that will enjoy carrying the imagery of an artist they love around with them, or sharing it with their friends,” said Thomas Hesse, president of Sony BMG’s global digital business and U.S. sales.”
Full article here.
Greg Sandoval reports for Webware that Sony’s new offering will be “available in unprotected MP3s… It’s important to note that the music is ‘anonymously watermarked,’ which means that it can’t be used to identify users or where the music was purchased, according to the company. The watermarking is intended to help the label learn whether songs are being shared on peer-to-peer networks.”
“The gift cards feature artist images and album information and represents the latest effort by a record company to spur people to buy complete digital albums,” Sandoval reports.
Sandoval writes, “A nice idea but the public has yet to show much interest in buying digital music attached to physical packages. Why not just buy a CD and rip the music later?”
Full article here.
Again, besides the inconvenient physical card issue (Sony is a serious control freak) and the forcing of bundles (albums) upon customers, to repeat what we just said earlier this morning regarding Napster going DRM-free with MP3, why do these outfits insist on going backwards in time to the MP3 dinosaur when they have the more efficient and equally-DRM-free AAC available at their fingertips? Why do they stick to an old, outdated, now-surpassed format?
Can’t they take this opportunity, where they’re stripping off the DRM — thanks to Apple’s Steve Jobs — and changing formats to also follow Jobs’ lead by using the successor to MP3, the superior AAC instead? What’s next, flying cars that they insist on fueling with leaded gas from the 1970s?
Using MP3 today is just dumb, shortsighted, and regressive for no good reason. Now is the time for those straggling device makers to finally add AAC capabilities and let’s move forward, instead of clinging to “backwards compatibility” like some PC box assembler still bolting on parallel ports and installing floppy disk drives. At this rate, an iTunes Store selling point is going to be superior file format vs. last century’s MP3. We’d much rather have DRM-free 256kbps AAC vs. 256kbps MP3 and so would our iPods’ and iPhones’ storage capacities and batteries.
AAC advantages over MP3:
• Improved compression provides higher-quality results with smaller file sizes
• Support for multichannel audio, providing up to 48 full frequency channels
• Higher resolution audio, yielding sampling rates up to 96 kHz
• Improved decoding efficiency, requiring less processing power for decode, hence greater battery life
Now, how long can the music cartels get away with offering DRM-free music to every also-ran and their mother while blatantly excluding Apple? Are they demanding variable pricing (read: price hikes) and bundles (read: albums-only with assorted “extras”) from Apple before deigning to remove their locks? Is it legal to exclude the dominant seller of online music simply because you desperately desire to “level the playing field?” Where is the collusion line and when will it be crossed, if it hasn’t been crossed already?